Home Industry Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and partners present 3D printing process for magnesium alloys

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and partners present 3D printing process for magnesium alloys

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, the Magnesium Research Center (MRC) of Kumamoto University, TOHO KINZOKU CO., LTD. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the 3D printing industry’s first high-precision additive manufacturing technology for the use of magnesium alloys in a wire laser metal 3D printer via the Directed Energy Deposition (DED) process.

This development opens up new possibilities for the production of components for rockets, cars and airplanes that are both lighter and stronger than conventional parts made of iron or aluminum. This can improve fuel efficiency and reduce production costs, particularly in rocket construction. In addition, the new manufacturing processes are more energy efficient and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional methods, which contributes to more sustainable production.

Since September 2022, the consortium members have been working on a joint research project as part of JAXA’s Innovative Program for Future Space Transportation Systems. The aim is to reduce the weight of rockets and thus significantly cut costs. Due to the increasing demand for weight reduction in the automotive and aerospace industries as well as in electric vehicles, the processing of magnesium alloys is becoming increasingly important. However, conventional processes such as die casting make it difficult to produce hollow structures, and the widespread use of powder bed fusion (PBF) poses risks such as oxidation and dust explosions that make safe production difficult.

In response, the partners have combined Mitsubishi Electric’s metal 3D printer, which uses the wire laser DED process and employs metal wire instead of powder, with a heat-resistant and non-combustible magnesium alloy called KUMADAI, developed by the MRC. In tests, Mitsubishi Electric repeated the molding process with this alloy, which was produced by TOHO KINZOKU using advanced wire drawing technology. The result is a technology that utilizes a magnesium alloy wire as the AM material and prevents burning through precise temperature controls.

JAXA’s evaluation of samples made with this new technology shows that some rocket parts could be up to 20% lighter than conventional aluminum alloy structures. This technology could also be applied in other areas where weight reduction is required, including various transportation equipment and robotic components. Further research and development aims to commercialize this technology by 2029.

The collaboration between Mitsubishi Electric, MRC, TOHO KINZOKU and JAXA illustrates the potential of advanced 3D printing technologies to produce lightweight and strong components while promoting sustainability and efficiency in industrial production.

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